Try to Keep a Poker Face: Penny Ante Card Games Under Threat


Laws and regulations are supposed to apply equally to all, and that's giving a headache to some seniors and the local facilities that cater to them.

That's because gambling, it seems, is gambling, no matter the stakes.

State Representative, Angelo J. Puppolo, Jr., (D- Springfield) has filed a bill titled An Act Relative to Recreational Games in Senior Centers. The bill recognizes low stakes card games among seniors at Municipal and Town Senior Centers as a purely recreational activity that should not receive legal repercussions.

Puppolo is calling for the addition of a section in Massachusetts General Laws which would permit senior centers to allow card games like pitch, cribbage, mahjong, rummy, pinochle, canasta, dominos, bridge, bingo, and others to be directly sanctioned. Currently, without specific language to sanction recreational card games in municipal and town senior centers, some centers fear legal repercussions for allowing even small stakes card games. As a result, senior centers have banned such social recreational games for seniors and Puppolo wants that changed.

“It just makes sense to let these folks play card games. They aren’t high rollers who are looking to make money. They just want to play cards and recreational bingo with their friends and peers,” stated Puppolo.

Small stakes, in-person card games have been commonplace for seniors in their own homes. Because municipal senior centers are public places, the same protections do not apply without this new legislation.

In Franklin, Senior Center Director, Danielle Hopkins said,  the legislation would definitely be useful. However, she noted that Franklin does have a BINGO/gambling license, "which covers our small "gambling" happenings in the senior center."

And, she added, "if they just want to play for a few nickels for pokeno or poker- just let them play!"

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